What Is Child Emancipation?
Child emancipation occurs when a court declares a minor to have the same rights and responsibilities and an adult. As an adult, the parents of an emancipated minor are not in a position to make legal decisions for them. Even though a child obtains the same rights as an adult, they also have the same responsibilities. As a result, emancipated minors can file a lawsuit against others in their own name, but can also be directly sued by others.
Child emancipation can arise in the following situations:
- Getting married (must be at least 17 years old and requires parental and court approval)
- Joining the military
- A child is at least 16 years old, lives separately from their parents or guardian, and is financially independent
In New York, there is no legal proceeding that focuses explicitly on declaring a child to be emancipated. The courts determine whether a child is emancipated with respect to claims in another court proceeding such as those for child support, employment, and contract cases where the minor is a party. This is known as “constructive emancipation” because relevant facts indicate that the child should be treated as an adult.
Constructive Emancipation for Economic Independence
If a child is 16 years old or older, has a full-time job and pays their own living expenses, a court might consider them to be emancipated. In such cases, a child might even be deemed emancipated if they live with their parents but pay them rent.
In cases involving separated parents, a non-custodial parent who otherwise owes the custodial parent child support could argue that the child’s financial independence constitutes constructive emancipation. Constructive emancipation may be used to reduce or otherwise terminate their child support obligation. However, if a child is also a college student, courts are less inclined to find a child to be emancipated given the financial burdens of a college education.
Constructive Emancipation for Abandonment
If a child leaves home and cuts ties with their parents to avoid parental control, a court may consider them to be emancipated depending on why the child did so. For example, a child who abandons their parents simply to avoid their reasonable parental control is more likely to be considered emancipated, therefore excusing the parents from fulfilling their duty to provide them with financial support.
Conversely, if a child leaves home because their parents abused, neglected, or otherwise forced the child to fend for themselves, a court is less likely to find the child emancipated. As a result, the child’s parents still owe a legal duty to provide the child with financial support.
Constructive emancipation can also play a part in cases involving parental alienation. Parental alienation refers to a situation involving separated parents where one engages in a pattern of systematically disparaging the other parent, so their child turns against them. If parental alienation results in irreparably destroying the relationship between the other parent and their child, a court might declare the child emancipated and relieve the other parent of their duty to pay child support.
However, parental alienation sometimes makes victims out of both the child and the other parent. When parental alienation results from one parent wrongfully and maliciously poisoning the relationship between their child and the other parent, depriving that child of necessary support does not seem to serve the child’s best interest. Ultimately, courts have the unenviable task of carefully assessing each case to find a just resolution to the issues at hand.
Consult the Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, P.C. Today
Child support issues, such as those involving constructive emancipation, can be complicated. Fortunately, parents do not have to deal with such issues alone. At the Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, P.C., you can benefit from the experience of being represented by a dedicated family law attorney. Attorney Hagler is committed to helping you find a reasonable and fair resolution to your child support dispute, such that your child’s best interests are promoted.
To schedule an appointment about your case, call the Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, P.C. at (516) 514-3868 or complete an online request form today.